Saturday, February 25, 2017

Where do flowers come from? Shedding light on Darwin’s 'abominable mystery'

Scientist have partially solved the origin of flowering plants. A team from the Laboratoire de Physiologie Cellulaire et Végétale questioned the appearance of a structure as complex as the flower over the course of evolution. We know that flowering plants provide our food and contribute color to the plant world. Flowering plants appeared only 150 million years ago. They were directly preceded by a group known as the gymnosperms. the flower contains the male organs and the female organs, surrounded by petals and sepals, while the ovules, instead of being naked, are protected within the pistil. They wondered how was nature able to invent the flower, a structure so different from that of cones. The researchers found genes similar to those responsible for the formation of flowers, and which are organized according to the same hierarchy. The fact that a similar gene has been found in flowering plants and their gymnosperm cousins indicates that this is inherited from their common ancestor.
I found this amazing because we see flowering plants everyday, but we never question how or why they are here in the first place. We know that they help give the world a better look by there ravishing colors, yet we have no clue how they came to be like so. I feel like this study will make more scientist to go back in time and draw out the genetics and history of the common ancestor of modern day flowers. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Why We Need to Rethink Ethnicity-Based Genetic Testing

     This article discusses the importance of abolishing ethnicity- based genetic testing for mothers who are pregnant, but rather open up the genetic testing without ethnicity being the sole testing standards. Currently the data is skewed toward a European Caucasian population. This makes it hard to to interpret due to the genetic variance in minority races. This should be concerning and important because the US has been increasingly diversifying. Genetic testing is offered to women during pregnancy and allows the mother to see if there are any diseases or complications with the offspring before birth. However, the genetic testing is currently ran biased on the self reported ethnicity the mother provides. An example would be African patients are offered testing for sickle cell disease. Although, there are some diseases that are prevalent in certain minority groups, it doesn't inhibit other disease from happening that might not be getting tested for. With updated technology there is an inexpensive way to genetically screen multiple diseases at a time. This doesn't only allow physicians to better a universal disease panel to the parents but also promoting equality in genetics.
     I agree with this article that it is important to do genetic testing regardless of what ethnicity the child is. With so much diversity amongst individuals that are reproducing it is hard to determine the exact ethnicity of a child. Being able to create a common screening to check for multiple mutations and diseases regardless of race or ethnicity allows physicians to provide parents a more in depth result of the child's health.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Fire drill is happening....

Happiness is said to be a fleeting thing, but thanks to researcher Meike Bartel, the scientific community is one step closer to understanding just how happiness is expressed in the first place. By sampling almost 300,000 people, Bartel took a sample of each subject's DNA and measured their well-being (self reported measure of life satisfaction and mental health). From this, she was able to determine important information the link between genetics and happiness, including variants for happiness, depression, and areas on the genome linked to happiness.

Bartel stressed the fact that even though research has found a link between a subjects well-being and their genetic make up, lurking variables such as environmental factors play a major role in the overall well-being of a person. It is important to understand that a subject that does not exhibiting this variation can still be as happy as a person that does, but those with it are more prone to optimistic bias.
Meike Bartels speaking in Dubai about the 'Science of Happiness'

A journal I found on the subject on the National Institute of Health's website entitled "Genes, Economics, and Happiness", suggested that happiness was linked to a longer 5-HTTLPR allele, a serotonin transporter gene. Subjects that had a longer 5-HTT allele had a tendency to report a higher well-being that those that had shorter ones. Additionally, subject's with the shorter allele tended to succumb to stress depression more frequently. In both this journal and Bartel's journal article, the inconsistency of this experiments for this discovery was noted, as later experiments yielded varying results in regards to allele length and the effects on well-being. The topic would be interesting to explore further, as the link between the two variables could be significant.

An important question that was raised during this research is whether this genetic link to happiness could be used to genetically alter a person to have a happier predisposition. Unfortunately, the answer is no; for now anyway. Bartel explains that there are several thousand gene variants responsible for happiness, and altering that much DNA would be too great a task. For now, her focus is on the effects the environment has on genes.

CNBC "Happiness might Well be Genetic"

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Bottlenecked: Greenland's Inuit Population

      Genetic variation within a species' population is important to its overall health and survival. The article I came across was recently published in the Journal Genetics and discusses the effect of bottle-necking on a populations genetic variation. More specifically it looks into the Inuit population of Greenland and the effect bottle-necking has on deleterious, or harmful, genetic variations. For more insight into deleterious genetic variation you can take a look at this article by Kirk Lohmueller, who goes into detail about this phenomenon and its distribution in human populations.
       As for the original article the researchers found that the Inuit population did see a slight increase in deleterious alleles. They also determined the Inuit population had a much higher genetic load compared to other human populations who have experienced less bottle-necking. Genetic load refers to the difference between the fitness of optimal and observed genotypes in a population. This information gives insight into how the genetics of populations are negatively impacted by bottle-necking. These articles are in regards to human populations but this could be extrapolated onto other species. It seems to me that this is something that may help us in future wildlife conservation efforts.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Understanding bulls' gene-rich Y chromosomes may improve herd fertiliy

This article talks about a better understanding on how cattle and other mammals evolved, as well as help animal breeders and farmers better maintain and enhance fertility in the cattle industry. Scientists identified 1,274 genes in the male specific region of the bovine Y chromosome, compared to the 31 to 78 genes associated in the Y chromosomes of various primates. Understanding genetic diversity may give farmers another tool for managing their herds to improve male fertility. The researchers analyzed the expression of the entire Y-linked genes as the bull aged, beginning soon after the bull's birth, during puberty and then again after the bull matured. 

I think that this will help farmers and breeders in the long run for cattle. They understand low fertility is a big problem for the dairy and beef industry, which means it's time to pay more attention to male fertility now. What I find interesting is that most animal breeders and farmers select bulls based on physical characteristics, such as the size of the testis. They think this because the Y chromosome is only found in males and only passed through the male line.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Genetic Testing: Reason to Gather Your Family Health History

A gloved hand removes a test tube against a gene chart background.
New abilities have developed in genomics-based technologies where physicians are guided toward therapies and screening medical treatments. These treatments developed in order to find individual's genetics and the disease risks. With the knowledge of patient's genetics, it can help physicians make better decisions about their treatment options. Gathering family's history about the health is very crucial to figure out what kind of risk or diseases can afflict in the future. Discussing these topics can help understand the medical heritage that can open doors to better health and wellness.
This is a great topic to bring up with your family to discuss and develop ways to figure out what can possibly happen and the types of risks that can occur in the future. Since technology is advancing rapidly, physicians knowing what can happen will help with better treatments. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Human Gene Editing Supported by Science Panel

Just like any field of study, genetics entails some pretty controversial topics. One of the most debatable advances in genetics research is the idea of physically modifying human embryos in order to create genetic traits that can be passed down to future offspring. For many years it has been difficult to define the ethical background of this technique. It is widely feared that this technology could and would be used to enhance intelligence or to create physical specimens to eventually serve as soldiers. This article reports that an advisory group of scientists has endorsed gene editing in order to alter/prevent babies from acquiring genes that cause serious disease when there is no other alternative intervention. Human germ line engineering, as this technique is called, will allow parents to have biological children without passing on the genes for Huntington’s or Tay-Sachs disease, for example.

            I found this article to be really relevant and interesting. To be able to alter genetic traits in human embryos is an incredible advancement that should be used, but only for the right reasons. As incredible as technology is becoming, who knows what catastrophes could result from putting this type of power into the wrong hands. This topic should not be taken lightly and should abide by a strict set of ethical laws. Personally, I think any advancement is a good advancement. A few years ago, this would have never even been thought to be possible. Now, according to this article, “the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine has lent its support for this once-unthinkable proposition”.

A related article says that China will develop the first genetically enhanced super-humans using the same germ line engineering technology. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Microbes Genetically Fit to Withstand Extreme Environmental Conditions

This article is about living organisms as small as microbes living beneath the ice layer in Antarctica. The article talks about enzymes and proteins in which are genetically adapted to maintain life in extreme temperatures in deep sea vents. The article discusses how flexible the ability of the enzymes and proteins must be to physically adapt to these conditions. Scientists in this article experimented by changing DNA sequences of these microbes changes their ability to withstand different extreme conditions and temperatures. Extremophiles like this microbes ultimately behave in the same ways when their genetic make up is altered from scientific mutation.

This article skewed my attention because I have not learned about much life in Antarctica due to that fact that it is below 0 degrees, which is unlivable for most organisms. I learned a fascinating technique of switching DNA sequence in an enzyme or protein's DNA can change an organisms optimal preference for environmental survival. The conceptualization of scientifically mutating an organism via science methods can change an organism's optimal environmental preference is extraordinary. This relates to genetics because DNA sequences are being altered for the study of extremophiles and their environmental behaviors. This research would particularly interest a marine science major or anyone interested in the genetics of microbial organisms.